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White House press secretary douses latest Republican talking point about bogus gas tax

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The new conservative angle is that electric cars should be taxed. While the Biden administration proposes creating more tax incentives for electric vehicles, the GOP, dripping in fossil fuel patronization, wants to create another tax that works against promoting more renewable energy. Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who recently surprised many with his announcement to retire at the end of his term, has offered up a tax on electric vehicles. Along with a make-em-up concern for the need to come up with revenue that will pay for this infrastructure plan, the conservative talking point is that gas-powered vehicle owners pay a tax for infrastructure when they go to the pumps, so why shouldn’t electric vehicle owners? It’s an argument that has common sense feelings attached to it, but like most conservative common-sense arguments, it only works inside of a vacuum and fails miserably when contextualized in the real world.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki spoke with reporters about the many wide-ranging issues fielded by a working U.S. government and a communicative administration—things like foreign policy, national security, and infrastructure. At two points, Psaki was forced to field the disingenuous conservative infrastructure paper-tiger rhetoric from reporters, and both times she fired back that there are very simple things we all understand, and everyone should understand. Electric vehicles are being promoted because they are considerably more essential to our environmental future than are fossil-fuel driven vehicles, and we aren’t taking in American consumers just so that the rich can continue to figure out ways to not pay their fair share of taxes.

The first question was about Sen. Rob Portman, offering up an olive branch made out of air by saying he would be open to creating an infrastructure bill that wouldn’t include his ideas on an electric vehicle tax as long as there were no taxes in the infrastructure bill at all. This isn’t something worth mentioning to Biden or Psaki—or anyone with working thought processes—since the Republican Party’s faux budget-neutral whining (one of the reasons Portman says we need to tax electric vehicles) contradicts the premise of creating a spending bill with no new taxes. And if Portman is unwilling to give even the dimmest of outlines of what that kind of an infrastructure package would look like, it’s not up to Psaki, or anyone else for that matter, to help him figure it out. He can take that nothing-burger of an idea into retirement.

In fact, Psaki explains that Biden has already offered up considerably more revenue generation ideas that are a part of the program. “The last I checked, the proposal the president put forward in his initial—the initial proposal that has been a part of this discussion—to increase investment in tax enforcement, ensure that people who are the wealthiest are paying what they should be paying in taxes, which would raise a significantly larger amount than the gas tax, does exactly that. And should meet [Portman’s] bar.”

Later on some reporter guy comes forward with a straight question, wondering why electric vehicle owners don’t have to pay a gas tax like gas car owners. This. Is. Not. An argument. For. Not. Taxing. The. Rich. This isn’t an argument for taxing electric vehicle owners. This is the same argument that the Confederacy gave to the government over why they couldn’t continue to treat an entire race of people like chattel. This isn’t fair because it’s how we do stuff that isn’t acceptable anymore. If this reporter, who I will call Newsman GOP Talking Points, is really feeling bent out of shape about some Americans being unfairly taxed versus other Americans, I would hope he would go lead the charge to get the wealthiest in our country to at least pay as much in taxes as the rest of us, as opposed to even less than the rest of us.

Portman and others’ attempts at coming up with ways to not tax the rich while pretending to work on a “bipartisan” piece of infrastructure legislation would be the noble swan song of a conservative senator moving into retirement if it wasn’t so paper-thin in its worthlessness. Sen. Chuck Schumer has already moved into starting the reconciliation process as the GOP has made it clear for about 45 years now that they do not plan on passing any legislation that doesn’t include only giving tax breaks to the rich and nothing else. Psaki offers up Newsman GOP Talking Point his deliverance by explaining that in promoting electric vehicle ownership, the Biden administration hopes to … get more people to choose to drive electric vehicles. This, of course, will help by reducing our country’s carbon emissions while promoting the renewable industries in the United States, which have considerably more potential for growth and job creation than the fossil fuel industry does. It’s as simple as that.

If you thought I was being too hard on Newsman GOP Talking Points guy, his follow-up should put your conscience to rest: He asks, with the logic of someone suffering anxiety from lack of logic, what will happen to the Highway Trust fund if people stop buying gas and move to electric the way the Biden administration is proposing to incentivize inside of the infrastructure bill. Another way to put this: Our highways have been falling apart for a long time now, in no small part due to the lack of tax revenue generated from the wealthiest among us, and the gas tax has not been able to fix that. What will happen to our highways and infrastructure if we pass a massive bill to help fund, rebuild, and upgrade the thing that the gas tax is supposed to help fund? He adds “over time,” so as to not sound like he doesn’t understand words and numbers and things, but the result is the same.

Many Republican senators and legislators, not unlike many Democratic ones, are pretty wealthy themselves, and would prefer to keep their ill-gotten tax break gains. The Biden administration, along with progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, know that the Republican tax breaks are outrageous and, at the very least, any movement to claw back some of that money on top of money the ultra rich are making is good policy. It’s popular policy, even inside of conservative circles. They also know that we need an infrastructure bill for all of the reasons: Our country needs infrastructure upgrades for economic, climate, and national security reasons that everyone can see and understand.

Historically speaking, huge Republican-led tax breaks for the ultra rich have led to further weakening of our country’s infrastructure and the widening of the economic inequality gap between the rich and the rest of us. The Democratic Party has proposed raising taxes to varying degrees against the richest people in our country. Even with the egregiously low tax rates that the ultra rich have been gifted by their millionaire GOP class of lackeys, the rich can’t even be bothered to pay them. In a form of compromise, the Biden administration has already offered up considerably more moderate proposals on taxing the rich—at least considerably more moderate than many of us in the progressive community would like. And while we may complain it doesn’t go far enough, the Republican Party has made it clear now for decades that there is no compromise to be made.

This is Psaki trying not to say that this isn’t a question worth answering.

Here is Psaki answering another question about something Portman said. There might be no things in the history of things ever said by Rob Portman that are worth a response. Luckily, Psaki is willing to do a job that would end with me being fired for cursing too much.


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‘Beginning of an historic moment’: First group of Afghan allies who aided military arrive in U.S.

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In a statement, President Joe Biden called the first group of allies and families to be evacuated as part of Operation Allies Refuge “an important milestone as we continue to fulfill our promise to the thousands of Afghan nationals who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan.”

“This morning, the first flight of Operation Allies Refuge has arrived in the United States, carrying Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) and their families,” the president said. “These arrivals are just the first of many as we work quickly to relocate SIV-eligible Afghans out of harm’s way—to the United States, to U.S. facilities abroad, or to third countries—so that they can wait in safety while they finish their visa applications.”

”These first Afghans are able to come directly to the United States because they have already completed extensive background checks and security screening by the Intelligence Community and the Departments of State and Homeland Security,” he continued. “They will complete the final steps of their visa applications and required medical checks at Fort Lee, in Virginia, before traveling onward to begin their new lives in the United States.”

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In a second statement, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) President Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, one of the fiercest voices advocating for Afghan allies and their families, called the arrivals “the beginning of an historic moment,” and urged the safe evacuation of all allies and families to either the U.S. or a U.S. territory.

The 2,500 being evacuated to Fort Lee represent just a fraction of the thousands of allies and family members who must be brought to safety after aiding our military, and who have already been in danger even before the scheduled withdrawal of our forces. One interpreter, Ramish, told CNN that when Taliban members were unable to find him, they burned his house down. He’d been in hiding after he’d been told they were searching for him. “If he can’t get out, he said, ‘our future will be dark,’” the report said.

“The administration has set an important precedent in where it has moved these first allies, proving the easiest and safest way to relocate others is by bringing them to U.S. soil,” O’Mara Vignarajah said. “Given the weight of our moral responsibility, we need nothing less than a full-scale evacuation of allies to Guam or elsewhere in the U.S. We cannot in good conscience put them at risk in third countries with unreliable human rights records, or where the Taliban may be able to reach them.”

“This flight, and its passengers being processed in Fort Lee, is precedent to bring all these heroes and their dependents to U.S territory while their visa claims are processed,” said Veterans for American Ideals’ Chris Purdy, another leading advocate. “Eighteen-thousand allies and their families are counting on these promises being kept.”

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The arrivals come one day after the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation increasing special visas by 8,000. “I am incredibly grateful that the supplemental includes the HOPE Act to temporarily waive the medical examination for our Afghan partners and core components of the ALLIES Act to expedite the visa process,” Honoring Our Promises Working Group member and Colorado Rep. Jason Crow said. “As the U.S. withdraws troops from Afghanistan, this legislation will allow us to honor our promises and protect those who served alongside us.” The bill now goes to President Biden for his signature.

“We are relieved that Congress has taken decisive action toward fulfilling the United States’ promise to Afghan allies,” said International Refugee Assistance Project policy director Sunil Varghese. “These additional visas and improvements to SIV procedures will go a long way in preventing further unnecessary loss of life. We are proud of advocating for these changes, and we are especially encouraged to see that the spouses and children of murdered SIV applicants will not be left out in the cold.”


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Thanks to Trump, the GOP’s future doesn’t look very bright to Republican voters

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That 18% sliver of GOP voters who’d like to rid the entire party of Trump has remained notably consistent since the beginning of the year. In February, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found what while 59% of Republicans wanted Trump to play a “major role” in the party, 17% said they “no longer” wanted to him play any role.

Interviews conducted for the AP survey suggest Trump’s divisiveness and baseless election lies could depress GOP voting on both ends of the Trump spectrum—among his most devout followers and never-Trumpers alike.

Nicholas Blethrow, a 28-year old Republican who lives in Orange County, California, called the party “pretty much a disaster” and said its continuing efforts to overturn the 2020 election were “ridiculous.”

“Clearly there’s a lot of people that enjoy him. But I don’t think it’s good,” Blethrow said.

Reedsville, Wisconsin, native Dennis Herzog, 36, identified as a staunch Republican but also said he has found the constant tension between the parties exhausting and is dismayed by “the whole system in general.” 

“It’s nonstop,” Herzog said. “I don’t care who is in office. Just do what’s right for the people and stop picking certain sides.”

The repeated takeaway from polling about Trump is the fact that while he remains a powerful figure in the Republican Party, his dominant presence also poses real challenges for the GOP. While Washington Republicans keep trying to will Trump into talking about the future, his constant harping on the 2020 election continues to sow doubt in the electoral system among his followers. At the same time, some noteworthy sliver of GOP voters wishes he would just dry up and go away, even as their party goes all in on his antics. 

Ideally, at this point, GOP voters would be galvanizing against President Joe Biden, but Trump is still hogging the spotlight—and that could prove detrimental to GOP hopes heading into 2022.


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‘Bloody shirt’ gaslighting hits fruition as Republicans valorize insurrectionists, attack accusers

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Indeed, Stefanik spent the week defending the insurrectionists by attacking Democrats. A few days before, she had joined the right-wing chorus (including Jordan) blaming Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for what they labeled “the so-called insurrection.” 

“The American people deserve to know the truth. That Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility, as speaker of the House, for the tragedy that occurred on January 6,” Stefanik told a press conference. Republican Congressman Liz Cheney tartly observed that she “would be deeply ashamed of myself” for such remarks.

Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld recently assembled a nearly comprehensive rundown of the many ways that right-wing media have gone all-in on gaslighting the public about what happened on Jan. 6, as well as their culpability for spreading the very same disinformation about the election beforehand (as well as afterward) that was the fuel for the insurrection itself.

The gaslighting included the runup to Jan. 6, particularly the two months following the election when Fox News and an array of right-wing pundits produced a torrent of disinformation suggesting groundlessly that the presidential election results were fraudulent, and that moreover elected Republicans held statutory power to halt the ballot-counting process, another rank falsehood.

It continued even during the insurrection itself. The far-right Gateway Pundit website referred to the rioters as “patriots,” while an Alex Jones guest declared: “This is what happens when Americans rise up.” On Fox News, anchor Bret Baier opined: “It’s not like it’s a siege. … It seems like they are protesting.” A Fox reporter on the scene credulously repeated insurrectionists’ claims: “Aside from the things that were broken getting into the Capitol in terms of doors, they say there is no vandalism taking place.”

Immediately after the insurrection, the gaslighting intensified, with a completely different version of events: It wasn’t really Trump supporters who did it, it was antifa leftists. Gateway Pundit claimed that “at least one bus load of antifa goons infiltrated the Trump rally as part of a false flag operation,” while Fox’s Laura Ingraham speculated that, because she had “never seen Trump rally attendees wearing helmets” and body armor, it seemed unlikely that the insurrectionists were really Trump supporters. (Ingraham was obviously unacquainted with the kind of gear Proud Boys and Oath Keepers commonly wear at their events.)

The Sunday news talk shows were shortly dominated by Republicans claiming that the election had been stolen as a way to deflect discussion of the insurrection. In short order, the conversation turned from false denials about the nature of the violence to an attack on the motives of the people who were demanding accountability.

Tucker Carlson—who had first argued that “it was not an insurrection” in mid-January, less than two weeks after the event—led this particular parade, with a post-insurrection rant claiming that Democrats were intent on exploiting the Jan. 6 events for political gain and to criminalize their political enemies:

Got that? Vote the wrong way and you are a jihadi. You thought you were an American citizen with rights and just a different view. But no, you’re a jihadi. And we’re going to treat you the way we did those radicals after 9/11. The way we treated Bin Laden. Get in line, pal. This is a war on terror.

… Keep in mind, they’re talking about American citizens here. They’re talking about you. But nobody seems to notice or care.

Carlson went on to claim that the First Amendment had been “effectively suspended,” and that “we’re clearly living under some form of martial law at the moment.”

By May, the denial that Jan. 6 had been an insurrection had spread to Congress, with Republican House members comparing the rioters to ordinary tourists visiting the Capitol. It similarly became the favorite response of an array of right-wing pundits, as well as among the protesters who turned up outside the D.C. Corrections Center where most of the arrested insurrectionists are being held.

Accordingly, Carlson leapt to the fore in claiming victimhood at the hands of the new “war on terror” that right-wing pundits claimed President Biden’s crackdown on white-nationalist violence constituted. Piling falsehood upon falsehood, Carlson simultaneously argued that right-wing extremists were not a threat while claiming that in fact, the National Security Agency was spying on him.

This claim shortly mutated into a new accusation: Namely, that the real cause for the Jan. 6 insurrection was an FBI plot using informants to manipulate Trump fans into committing acts of violence. This conspiracy was quickly picked up not only by far-right Congressmen Marjorie Taylor Green and Matt Gaetz, but also onetime progressive hero Glenn Greenwald, who devoted a long screed on Substack to the claim. The problem, however, was that the theory was built on a crude misunderstanding of how federal informant programs, as well as the process used by federal prosecutors to obtain cooperating witnesses in cases like the Jan. 6 prosecutions.

This clear departure from reality—and the insistence on inverting it on its head—for right-wing media was, as we have seen, largely fueled by the increasingly radicalized nature of the right-wing audience for outfits such as Fox News, which corrected course after its accurate but wildly unpopular election-night reportage caused its ratings to plunge. The gaslighting that now fills its programming is a reflection of its audience’s demands, suggesting that the right’s increasing radicalization is now stuck in an unstoppable feedback loop.

The final component in “bloody shirt” narrative entails demonizing and discrediting the actual victims of and rendering them into bullies, thugs, and would-be tyrants. After the recent opening hearing of the House Jan. 6 commission, Fox contributor Julie Kelly tweeted out an attack on Michael Fanone, the Capitol Police officer who was brutalized during the insurrection and testified before the panel, in which she made fun of him for crying. Kelly dismissed him as a “crisis actor,” adding that “he has many tattoos.”

In a similar vein, right-wing pundit Matt Walsh sneered at Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois—one of only two Republicans on the Jan. 6 commission—for his tears during his remarks at the hearing: “Men should not cry in public. It is unmanly and dishonorable.”

But the focus of the demonization, as Stefanik’s remarks suggest, has been on Pelosi. Two of the Republican congressmen initially appointed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the Jan. 6 commission and then removed by Pelosi—Jim Jordan and Jim Banks—have claimed that the speaker herself was to blame for the breakdown in security that led to the insurrection.

“Why wasn’t there a proper security presence?” Jordan asked. “And that’s a question that … only the speaker of the United States House of Representatives can answer.”

But in fact, as CNN notes: “The Speaker of the House is not in charge of Capitol security. That’s the responsibility of the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the US Capitol Police and approves requests for National Guard assistance.”

Moreover, the D.C. National Guard has a sole commander: The sitting president, which at the time was Donald Trump. Its website explains that “the Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard is subordinate solely to the President of the United States. This authority to activate the D.C. National Guard has been delegated, by the President, to the Secretary of Defense and further delegated to the Secretary of the Army. The D.C. National Guard is the only National Guard unit, out of all of the 54 states and territories, which reports only to the President.”

That hasn’t prevented right-wing pundits from trying to concoct an image of Pelosi as the secret overseer of the insurrection, apparently with the intent of eventually imprisoning all Trump supporters and Republicans.

Calling her “Nancy the Insurrectionist,” Ingraham told her Fox News audience that Democrats are engaging in a plan to take total control of the nation’s politics: “They’re following Nancy Pelosi and her efforts to poison the well, to accuse Republicans of fascism and otherwise drive their opponents from public life.”

Far-right cartoonist Ben Garrison concocted a caricature version of the “Gulag Archipelosi,” with a grim, dingy prison cell jammed with Jan. 6 insurrections wearing “Trump Won” T-shirts and miserable expressions, overseen by a Nazi-esque House Speaker (while Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn chides readers: “I warned you!”).

Turning the insurrectionists into victims and martyrs was the intent of a publicity stunt by Greene, Gaetz, and other far-right Congress members on Thursday, when they turned up at the D.C. Corrections Center demanding to be allowed inside to see the Jan. 6 prisoners. They were turned away, which infuriated Greene, who told Real America’s Voice: “We were completely rejected, and we were told that we were trespassing. They locked us out! They locked the door and wouldn’t let us back in!”

“I know that the people there, just from what little we saw from the outside, they’re being treated worse there than the bloodthirsty terrorists at Guantanamo,” Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas told reporters.

This is how the age-old “waving the bloody shirt” trope has always worked: Invert reality on its head, claiming innocence of violent intent, shifting the blame for violence onto the victims, always taking the rhetorical offensive. Thus, the bullies become victims, and the victims bullies. So far, it has worked every time.


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